tv Newsmakers CSPAN January 13, 2013 10:00am-10:30am EST
mike, you're first. go ahead. >> good morning. going to look at the fiscal cliff first. big, hard-fought battle over spending and cuts. you have plenty of experience in this arena. you were on the biden commission, the super committee. both of those failed. and then the fiscal cliff comes along, you get a deal but you voted against it. you were the only democrat to vote against it. why? and what's going to take for you to get on board? >> well, there were several who voted against it. but my sense is that if we're going to move this country forward we're going to start dealing with the big challenges we face fiscally, socially, now. not through the short-term fixes. to me, a fix, a long-term fix would have included something that would have disposed of the so-called fiscal cliffs. i believe this short-term deal creates three new fiscal cliffs which is not the way you want to run, whether it's the
smallest business on main street or the largest economy in the world. so what we need to do is get to the point of dealing with the biggest deficit this country faces the jobs deficit. and to me this bill simply put a band aid on the problem. it did do something the president wanted to do, committed to do. he delivered on the promise to try to help protect the middle class but my fear is that in these next 3 -- three political maneuvers we're going to see that people will start attacking the middle class and i believe that this was our best opportunity to really take care long term the issues that we need to address to a balanced approach. >> so to follow up, you voted early, i was watching the board. you voted early. you didn't vote to see if it was going to pass and then vote no. was the idea that obama kind of lost some leverage there that you wanted to see it fail because obama now has to go back to the debt ceiling and he doesn't have the benefit of tax cuts looming?
>> i knew it was going to pass. after the republicans walked away from the negotiations and then tried to plan b by speaker republican speaker bane thear failed where republicans wouldn't support their own speaker it became clear even after they tried to amend the senate deal that they could not do so so the deal was going to pass because we were already passed the deadline. but my sense is that this simply creates more mischief. i couldn't understand people voting for it because they wanted to get past the so-called fiscal cliff. i think we have to get to a long-term solution, a deal that actually increases the size of deficits doesn't provide a long-term solution. a deal that actually lets people who have incomes of about $450,000 be lumped in with people who are in the middle of america, i know of know one in the middle of america who think incomes of $450,000 is a middle class. we have to face this. i'm not interested of putting
the burden on the middle class. and my fear is that we're going to see this gamesmanship played again and again through what will be essentially three new opportunities for republicans to play mischief with our budget. >> you talked about wanting a grand bargain arks sort of a deal that looks at a bunch of these issues. one thing that's being discussed is trying to avert the debt ceiling debate by either invoking the 14th amendment, minting a $1 trillion coin. what do you think about those? do you think those are viable options and would you be opposed to them? >> i don't believe that anyone should hold the american people hostage for a ranssome that they couldn't get in the ballot box. and that's what we see being done with the whole issue of the debt ceiling. for things we did we borrowed money. in fact, republicans and democrats alike passed these budgets and now republicans are saying they don't want to pay
for the thing that is they voted for in these previous budgets. that to me is not the way you run government once again and to allow someone to play political mischief, to put preconditions on a balanced deal by saying we're going to ask for a ransom devastating cuts to social security and medicare, in order to cover costs to things like the bush tax cuts, unpaid for wars in iraq and afghanistan don't make sense. so i agree with the president. the american people should not be held hostage with this game of using the debt ceiling as a way to try to extract what you couldn't get through the ballot box. and i would urge the president to move forward and continue to have the economy grow, let the government move forward. don't let this be a way that anyone in congress tries to manipulate the process. >> so you're leaving options on the table. you would not be opposed to invoking the 14th amendment or using a coin or whatever options. >> there are no great options if someone wants to hold you
hostage but you can't negotiate with hostage takers, you can't constantly pay ransom. so i think tpt must use one of the option before him whichever is the least offensive use that. but this sthinks. this is not the way to run government. no small businessman in america would borrow money to keep the business afloat and then say later to the bank i'm not going to pay you money. he wouldn't get a line of credit in the future. we have to pay our bills. what we do in the future is very important. that's where i go back to these long-term deals that deal with these fiscal issues that we have before us. but to hold people hostage, the american taxpayer hostage isn't the way to go. >> could i clarify? you said the only deficit we have is a jobs deficit. so if we fix the economy, social security and medicare don't need any fixing? the plans are fine as they operate? >> our biggest deficit is the jobs deficit because if you get people back to work, they're paying their fair share of taxes. if they're paying their fair
share of taxes the treasury is receiving revenue. if the treasury is receiving more revenue the deffssiths shrink. we can't cut our way to prosperity. we need to grow our economy and the best way is to put american middle class workers back to work. and so to me every time you talk about stifling the economy through these very aggressive cuts to services and earned benefits, you're not helping the economy grow because you're making it tougher for middle class americans. so the jobs deficit to me is the biggest deficit we face. but we have a lot of other challenges. social security and medicare aren't among the most immediate of challenges. social security if you do the simple math in the 77 years of social security, we have all paid our parents we have paid some $15 trillion in payroll taxes to take care of social security benefits. how much in those 77 years have we actually used in benefits received by all americans?
my parents our grand parents? $14 trillion. we have a $1 trillion surplus of hard cash taxpayer money that's been paid into social security. on top of that, over the last several decades those trillions of dollars that we've contributed to social security and payroll taxes have earned interest to the tune of about $1.25 trillion. so the trillion and the trillion-1/2 in interest, in unused social security money. so why should social security recipients take cuts to cover the cost of tax cuts for the very wealthy? >> but of course in a budget those muns have been tapped for other priorities. >> that's the real issue. the government for other purposes has been using social security money that it gets by providing the social security system with treasury sertscats, bonds. but the bonds are still good money. treasury, the treasury has just taken the hard cash and given bonds the way china has given
its hard cash and taken bonds. if we're not going to pay social security back on its bonds then we're probably in pretty good shape because we don't have to pay china japan and every other lender who has given the u.s. money. but the reality is we've got to pay our bonds whether to social security or to china and that's where we have to be fiscally responsible. but to bring social security which has never add add single penny to the debt or deficits of this country i think is wrong. >> just to follow up on that. for most of the last year you've said what you just said, which is social security has no business being in this any of these debates, not debt ceiling debate. >> long term discussions on social security can be on there yes. >> a couple weeks right -- >> right after nancy pelosi came out and said she would back something similar to what obama was backing which is a chained cpi to reduce payments and suddenly you weren't quite as vocal. we've been watching you and you
weren't quite so vocal in your opposition to that. is that an indication that you would support something like that as part of the grand bargain? >> first i have deep respect for our leader nancy pelosi in the house. she has done remarkable things. she's allowed us to move forward on some of the biggest project this is country has before us. health care, affordable for all americans. climate change issues. the entire issue of trying to get the economy going when we were in the deppth of this great recession. so i have deep respect she was working with the president was trying to help us get to a long term solution, which i mentioned before. she said that she would consider the chained cpi which is a cut in benefits for seniors, for veterans, for a lot of folks who receive earned benefits. social security hasn't contributed the a dime to these deficits. so if we're trying to solve
these fiscal issues because of our current deficits and our current debt, why should social security, which hasn't contributed one single penny to those current deficits and the current debt have to be used to cover that? >> because it might be the only way to get republicans on board for a big bargain. >> we know republicans are interested in cutting social security and medicare. perhaps there are some who would say if that's what it takes to reach a big deal we'll do that. i'm not yet convinced that simply because republicans want to cut social security and medicare even though there's no justification for doing it, certainly in the case of social security, that we should do that. if you want to talk about strengthening social security into the future to make it a program that for the next 75 years will continue to run surpluses, i'm there. i'm willing to talk just about anything. the same with medicare. but to the degree that you're using benefits that people have paid for, they've earned, to cover deficits caused by unpaid
for wars in iraq and afghanistan, unpaid for tax cuts under the bush administration, then that's a tough one for me to swallow. so while i respect what the president leader pelosi are trying to accomplish i have to be convinced that i should be telling my parents that what they paid for and never asking the government to give them a dime is not going to get cut because someone else spent money for bush tax cuts and unpaid for wars. >> you've led the way for hispanics in congress. there's been a lot of discussion this week about the president's cabinet, the first hispanic labor secretary is going to resign. do you think that there should be more diversity in the cabinet? would you like to see another hispanic fill the role of labor secretary? >> concerned that it's becoming too many white guys around the president? >> first i think throughout this country you're seeing the ranks of our important leadership post wls in the
private sector or the public sector becoming very diverse, reflecting america, which i think is phenomenal. our diversity is our strength. and i believe that president obama has made ever effort to try to make sure that diversity is a hallmark of his administration because when you reflect the public you're probably making decisions that the public agrees with. so i hope he continues to look for the most qualified people in america whatever their gender whatever their ethnicity. simply because if he gets the best, and he looks out for that diversity, we're going to have a talented group of people serving us. i think the people by the way that he has so far named to fill some of these post that is have been vacatered extremely talented. chuck hagel as far as i know is isn't minority or female but he is extremely qualified. vietnam veth, a warrior, a patriot, someone who is no nonsense. i think he is a proven leader
and can do a great job. you don't have to be minority or a female to be able to serve in this cabinet and do well. i think everyone should have an opportunity and i think the president is going to make sure he gets talented folks from every walk of life. >> ten minutes left. >> to follow up on that based on a lot of chrisism about hagel's nomination obviously in the house you don't have so much of a say but were you surprised and do you think the democrats that have voiced concerns should go ahead and back his nomination in the senate? >> the senate's role is to advise and consent. it's not to complain and filibuster. every one of the president's nominees should go through thorough vetting and hearing and have an up or down vote unless there's something that disqualifies him or her we should give the president's nomination an up or down vote. if that person can't get 51 at least 51 senators to vote for him or her, then that person
should not serve in the cabinet. but that person should not be held hostage once again holding hostages simply to try to get what you couldn't get through the ballot box through these political maneuvers in the congress. it's time for us to move forward. this economy could really be flying if we weren't constantly seeing congress get in the way, keep its foot on the brakes of economic recovery keeping its foot on the brakes of nominations of talented people. we have an opportunity to help the president help the american people. he made a commitment to deliver from the middle class out. we've got to help him do that because we've seen what happens when you try to do trickle down from the top down. it doesn't work. so give the president a chance. give his nominees an up or down vote. be what the founding fathers expected a body that would advise and consent not complain and filibuster. >> shifting again, gun reform.
joe biden met yesterday with gun reformers today with the nra. an issue obama is sticking his neck out for for the first time really in his white house tenure. this has not been an issue that has treated democrats well at the polls. i'm wondering if there is any concerns from 2014 from a democratic leadership perspective because obama is lame duck he doesn't have to werery about it but you do. >> i think we should take it straight on just the way the president and vice president said. law abiding gun owners don't like what happened in connecticut. they don't like what happened in colorado. they don't like what they see happening today. so it's not just folks who are concerned as i am living in a big city of the level of gun violence. we need to prevent that gun violence and we could take some very sensible measures to do that which gun owners support. gun owner, even those who are members of the nra, support background checks to make sure
that violent criminals, people who have severe mental disabilities aren't getting their hands on guns that we don't know about. most americans support closing the gun show loopholes which allows people to purchase weapons without ever having to undergo a background check. so if you do sensible things, whether you're a sportsman who has auled always had guns in the house or someone who is law abiding who wants to protect yourself, you're going to support these sensible measures. it's time for us to stop the violence if we can save one child's life we're doing something good. so i think democrats who tackle this straight on this is an issue where the american people are with those who want to have sensible management of our laws that allow us to make sure that if there's a gun out there it's used for the right reason. i don't think there's a gun owner in america who would say that an assault weapon has a
place in any place other than the ballotfield. an assault weapon doesn't have a place in the school, in the move atheater, in a place of worship. and so i think most americans would say it's time to make sure that assault weapons stay on the battlefield. >> to follow up, you talk about what american gun owners and public wants but it seems the biggest hurdle could by b the republican controlled house. how do you get anything through the house and have there been any discussions you've had with republican members who might be willing to align with you guy to get something done? >> i think if you take sensible approach and use common-sense measures to try to address this, that we can get bipartisan support. certainly the american people are way ahead of the politicians on this particular issue. the republican and democrat alike, gun owners, nongun owners, those who are in favor
of public safety and prevention of gun violence, those who have been sportsmen or owned guns all their lives. i think everyone agrees that we can find sensible measures that we can agree with rather than bog down or try to stifle progress, let's go where we can agree. but let's not be timid. let's make sure that we're doing things that prevent someone else whose got a mental problem, severe mental problem from going to a school and taking away the life of over 26 people, 20 of them children. it just doesn't make sense. it's time. and i hope that we do proceed in a very bipartisan fashion. >> one thing that i often hear from gun advocates talking about gun control laws is that half the population owns guns and half the population's never touched one. have you ever fired a gun or owned one? >> i have. and i am not someone who believes that in order to have safety i have to have a weapon. i can understand why some
americans do believe it. and want to maintain that right. to me it's not an issue of depriving someone of a right to possess a weapon. to me, it's an issue of having sensible measures to regulate the use of -- the possession of those weapons. because once you've got that weapon in your hand it's tough to figure out what's going to happen with it afterwards. so i think if we make sure that law abiding americans who have a sense of what it means to own a weapon are handling it in those legal and responsible ways, i think we'll be fine. it's when we allow someone to go and -- through these gun loopholes to sell a weapon, without ever having to provide or check that person who is purchasing a weapon's background, that's when we run into problems. and i think we can get rid of those loopholes. >> related.
all the focus now is on these big fiscal fights, debt ceiling, sequestration, the cr expires at the end of march. mitch mcconnell said we're not going to do anything until we get those things done. obama said he wants to do gun reform, immigration reform, energy reform. he can't think of anything more partisan than those three issues and they're going to start the partisan fight that is we had seen that have defined the congress for the past two years. can any of those things happen? this is not a congress with all due respect that walks and choose gum very well at the same time. can those things realistically happen with all these fiscal fights coming up? >> i was going to use the walk and chew gum analogy as well. the average person juggles lots of different things every day. make shurg the kids are doing their homework, paying the bills, making sure that you're prepared to replace that clothes washer that's about to
break down. they have no choice but to walk, chew gum, and juggle lots of things at the same time. congress is no different. in fact, members of congress are family people as well. so if they can handle a family they should be able to do the work in congress. so we should be able to walk and chew gum. we should be able to handle these things. it is time to fix a broken immigration system. the american public has told us that. so the president is ready. we should not face obstacles that are man-made. manufacturing these fiscal crises every few months doesn't just create this political backlog it doesn't just create animosity among the public and that's why congress has its lowest levels of approval in history it also creates the inability for the economy to really take off. and the reality is we need to get americans back to work. we've put over 5.5 million americans back to work in the last five years but we need to
do more. but er time congress gets in the way it makes it very difficult. so i hope what we find is the republicans will not use their leverage as the majority in the house to keep us from moving forward. the president has said he's ready to work on all these tough issues. immigration, gun violence, the economy. but we need some help from our republican colleagues. >> but to continue your met for. if mom and dad have wildly different views how those priorities should progress, those families are also stalled which is what the difference is philosophically in the the house between the democrats and the republicans. what's different that would make people want to work especially with you've seen the project of the majority in the next elegs? >> mom and dad should talk to the family and neighbors. because as i said before americans are way ahead of the politicians on these things. they are ready for immigration reform they are ready for the fix. they are ready for some prevention measures to stop the gun violence. they are ready for us to do the big deal on the economy. so that we don't get to see
millionaires and billionaires hide behind the coattails of the middle class. >> so the difference is is the public pressure will change the dynamic here? >> i hope so because it's become very clear over the last few years in the house that some folks just aren't listening to the public. and i hope that what the politicians learned from the election when republicans i believe thought they would win not just the white house but the senate and the house of representatives that the public is sending a message and i hope everyone in congress is listening. it's time to get things done. >> put aside the egos, hang them up with a coat, and let's gret things done. >> last question. >> we talk a lot about what democrats want to see pass in the republican house. what's one thing that republicans are asking for that you think democrats could pass through the house and senate and get signed by the president? >> i think there are a number of things. i think we can deal with the fiscal issues in a bipartisan balanced way. you can't just do it with one side doing all the lifting and everybody else getting off scoth free.
the president has been trying for two years. we've came close but speaker boehner walked away from the deal. i suspect we're going to have a chance to see a big deal surface again. i hope this time republicans are willing to take it. >> thank you for giving us your time this week. >> we are back with ginger of politico and mike of the hill. we just talked to mr. bersra who is the chairman of the democratic caucus. we're going to start right where we picked up and that's on his message that everyone should get along hear the message from the voters and get to these big issues the country has. >> here's the reality. the democrats have already picked up eight seats in this congress, the white house really wants to have both houses and democratic control for its last two years of the obama presidency. where is the incentive for the two parties to get along in this congress? >> i don't see much of one. republicans are going to try to go back to their districts and say i put up a good fight and
watch the fight that we did. and democrats are going to try to go back and say they're obstructionists don't send them back. then someone who can get along. and when those type of dynamics it's set up to be just as disagreeable as the last congress was with big fights and you heard the congressman say, ask the one thing that republicans could get and it was bipartisanship not like one of their big issues. so i think that they're going to call for bipartisan but asking for something from the other side is going to be a tricky battle for both of them. >> agreed. and you saw this from the first day after the election everybody was having their kumbaya moment where everybody was talking a good game and the voters had sent this message they want people to get along. then immediately they started just fighting like they had for the two years previous st previous so the republicans lost eight seats but the people that are here now are more conservative than before. you're going to see the same
gridlock that you saw over the past two years perhaps more because the stakes are higher. so everybody is asking what can they get done. i think the better question is what do they have to get done because that's what they will get done but not anything more than that. so that's debt ceiling, that's funding the government at its most very basic level. and it's avoiding those sequestration cuts which everybody agrees are bad for the country. those are all coming in the next 90 days. >> what does this mean for the economy? which was his underlying message. >> they keep mentioning uncertainty. and if you're a business owner and you want government to get something done long term basis, i wouldn't look forward to anything like that. the senate has passed a five-year farm bill for example and they can't even agree on that in the house. so there's a lot of long-term thing that is have passed the senate. obama has said he is going to sign them. but republicans aren't going to
doit now >> let's look to the governing dikemicks in the house of representatives. the grand deal for the fiscal cliff was actually struck by the senate republican leader and the vice president. mr. boehner had a defeat within his own conference and in the congress with his plan b so what does that mean for the governing of the house of representatives and the work reeglationship to move anything along between the ds and the rs? >> john boehner is in a very difficult position going forward. he has to broker agreements between himself and democrats but he's got to be able to broker agreement within his own caucus. we saw plan b die. we saw a long drawn out process on new year's day discussing the idea of amending the deal that had been struck in the senate, there are a lot of unhappy conservatives, a very tense vote for his speakership and the run-up to that finally electing him until he's got a dynamic within his own caucus where they don't want to see
taxes and they want to see more cuts and there's starting to be people whistering about shutting down the government if they don't see cuts in programs. so governing the house of representatives is pruing to be a difficult and complicated task for him in order to get anything out of his own caucus or through the whole chamber. host: the last question, mr. beccera is on ways and means and there's people who want big tax reform because of this deal that were struck they weren't happy with it. mr. beccera mentioned he wasn't happy with the $450,000 threshhold. so where do you see the tax debate going this year? >> maybe nowhere. if they can't agree on something as basic as extending the bush tax cuts for quote/unquote the middle class he's right that $450,000 is not middle class in most people's minds. but if they can't agree on that , they're going to have a tough tough fight and regular order hasn't been the way they've hasn't been the way they've done things anyway.